At 2-5, the Broncos’ playoff hopes are all but decimated and that’s even before considering the fact that they just shipped off one of their best players to sunny California in Emmanuel Sanders.
Lest we forget, however, he is not the only stud receiver they had on their roster – his counterpart, Courtland Sutton, is a deadly threat to defenses.
Sutton provides significant impact at the wide receiver spot and will be a commodity difficult to ignore for horseshoe defenders.
So, why don’t we dive right in to Sutton’s tape?
Change of Direction
Sutton measured in at 6-foot-3 and 218-pounds during the draft process in 2018 — so, it’s safe to say he is a colossal figure for a skill position player.
Don’t let that fool you though, he might be the size of Grawp (a giant from Harry Potter, sorry couldn’t resist the reference) but he has the agility of a gazelle (this is an animal from the real animal kingdom, I feel less guilty about this reference) as evidenced by his 3-cone (96th percentile) and 20-yard shuttle (77th percentile) during the pre-draft mania of 2018 (percentiles via mockdraftable).
The first play we’ll observe here gets called for defensive holding, and that’s due to Sutton’s surprising mobility for a man of his stature.
Sutton is lined up wide right on this play.
He starts off with a delicious jab step to the outside, forcing the defender to hesitate and permitting Sutton the inside track. Once he floats inside, he gives a soft cut on the in route and then rapidly digs his foot in to the ground and accelerates full speed towards the end zone.
Despite the fact that Flacco wouldn’t have thrown the ball in time, regardless of the hold, Sutton would have been wide open if not for the defenders’ desperate pleas to impede Sutton’s trajectory by yanking his pads and jersey.
Sutton faked the in route on the last play with a less than aggressive cut, but when he actually runs it, he can turn on a dime.
Sutton is lined up wide left here – and all he does is run a short, 5-yard dig route, but he makes his cut in a limited amount of steps.
Safe to say, this is extremely impressive movement for a behemoth receiver like Sutton — oh and he’s also difficult to bring down, as evidenced by the end of this play.
This play is sexy to watch – against the Chargers, Sutton lines up as the furthest receiver to the right in a bunch formation.
Not much to say here, Sutton does a simple out and in route and his cut inside required no wasted steps at all.
It’s summed up best in my notes – “damn, big man can move.”
Large Surface Area
Yes, we now know Sutton can move like Stanley Hudson on pretzel day (I’m feeling the pop culture references today).
But, we can’t forget that he knows how to use his size advantage as well.
Most of that comes in the form of box outs, as you’ll see.
The first example comes against the Chiefs – Sutton is lined up as the wide right receiver.
He simply runs to the goal line and settles down right in front of the zone coverage.
Flacco gets the ball out in time here and Sutton does a great job of sealing defenders by allowing the ball to come into his body, creating a natural shield effect.
It’s subtle, but important that Sutton is able to do this – the Broncos punched it in the next play with Royce Freeman, though things didn’t really trend upwards for the Broncos from there, as they lost 30-6.
Sutton is also able to contort his body to allow himself to make difficult catches.
He is lined up far right here, one on one with the corner. Sutton gains inside leverage and then veers towards the outside.
The throw wasn’t the best, but Sutton makes the adjustment, even with the safety coming in hot.
He stays concentrated and hauls in an incredible catch for a plump sum of yards.
Sutton is running a slant route here in what looks like a run-pass option.
Sutton posts up his defender, allowing separation between him and Flacco, granting his quarterback space to sneak in a low pass for a completion.
The Broncos love to send Sutton on post routes, particularly against cover 2.
This allows Sutton to combine the use of his size, change of direction and ability to find the soft spot in zone.
Sutton is the middle slot on the right side here and he simply runs into the unimpeded green grass on a post route against the Chiefs defense.
Here, Sutton is lined up as the slot tight to the left side.
Sutton runs directly at the defender to get him to shuffle backwards and also throws a hand at him to create further separation.
This results in a nice catch and run from Sutton.
Lined up as the wide right receiver, tight to the formation – Sutton gives a quick jab to the outside to allow him room to work with on the inside.
Flacco does a nice job of fitting the pass in between 2 defenders and Sutton makes the tough grab and refuses to go down.
Sutton is the far left receiver on this play.
He again runs the post route, but here he does a particularly fantastic job of changing his pace.
It looks like he comes out running about 80%, slows down considerably on his cut as he assesses the defense and comes out of that break at a great angle which allows Flacco to make an easier throw.
He then proceeds to bully his way forward for extra yardage.
Lined up right of the formation as the receiver closest to the boundary.
Sutton runs another post route against cover 2 and almost takes it to the house but is brought down by a shoe string tackle.
I know, we’re tired of the post routes but I’m really trying to drive home a point here.
Besides just that fact though, this play also showcases Sutton making a catch in between 3 defenders, so it’s definitely worth seeing.
Sutton is lined up as the far right receiver, tight to the formation.
Again, he does a prodigious job of angling his route in order to create a lane for Flacco to throw in – and it works wonderfully.
Run after catch
I know I have shown you most of his run after catch ability throughout the article and I’m not going to repeat those plays.
Sutton is still working on this part of his game as a whole but, as we’ve seen, he has a high ceiling here as well.
He is a big guy that can get away from defenders with his change of direction ability but he’ll need to figure out a better plan of attack post-catch.
But, instead of showing you guys his inability to always escape tacklers at a consistent clip, I’m going to show you the potential he has to alleviate that down the road.
Lined up as the slot to the left side, closest to the right tackle, Sutton runs a post-corner route.
The fake post makes the safety freeze because, as I mentioned thoroughly, Sutton runs a high volume of those in a Broncos jersey.
This causes the defender to open his hips towards the inside, allowing Sutton to run free to the outside.
Flacco gives him a nice ball and Sutton cradles it into his body but the safety is there to clean up.
The safety probably wishes he had been a tick late because Sutton throws a nasty stiff arm that gets the defender off him and then simply outruns the rest of the defense on his way to 6 points.
Sutton is a budding superstar that is limited by his surrounding offense and with Sanders now gone, defenses will pay heavier attention to him as well.
How he responds to this new development will be an interesting tale to watch unfold over the coming weeks.
More specifically for the Colts – overall, and particularly for this match-up, it’s been a smart decision for Eberflus to have created a more diverse collection of defensive game-plans.
If he had kept to the heavy cover-2 packages he has favored in the past, Sutton would be a shoe-in to feast on this defense. His post routes would dominate the inside and a post-corner would be a great misdirection to get the Broncos a big play on offense (if Flacco can get him the ball of course).
However, I expect Pierre Desir and Rock Ya-Sin to have their chances at covering Sutton mano-e-mano and I would say that Sutton is the more talented player in both match-ups but, despite that, safety help over the top will allow for easier defending – as long as the discipline is there.
Overall, Sutton is a rising star on an offense that desperately needs hope and he should be the main focus of the Colts defense this coming Sunday afternoon.